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Nate @ House of Annie

All this talk of Vietnamese food has thrown a great craving. I can taste the herbs, beef, and nuac mam in my mind. Good thing we're going to be back in San Jose in just a couple of weeks!


that green veggie in phở chiên phồng is not Morning Glory (water Spinach or Rau Muong ), it is Mustard Green . We Vietnamese often pair Mustard Green with Beef in a stir fry.


Duy - you're right of course, it's in my notes. I will correct with a credit to you. Thanks for the comment.


Banh assuming originated from a Chinese word 粄 – has two meaning in its origin: when pronounced as ban it means ground rice flour cake; when pronounced as fan, it means rice (the meal).
I wonder if pho the word has a combined origin – it has a Chinese body (the rice flour sheet) but a French soul because (regardless of the use of chicken) it sounds like the whole host of banh pho food you mentioned was only about beef? So maybe feu could have come into it spiritually to denote a food made with beef? Whereas hủ tiếu is about similar type of noodle dish of pork – from the Chinese influence. It also sounds like hu tieu, although written as kuey tiao and probably means literally as such the rice strip, the noodles used is in a style of fen tiao 粉条 to an extent – a Chinese food that commonly denotes noodles made from flour/starch such as tapioca (especially in Taiwan for what I know), sweet potato or peas and beans, potato. It is a generic name for noodles/strips made from flour and of course including rice, wheat, though not usually.
Anyway, these are just personal thoughts. I like the conclusion “a reminder of the ever-evolving nature of street food”. Must have opened up scope of discussions for you as a street food columnist. The age aspect - the appeal of street food to different age groups and how it changes the style, the varieties of food in culture could probably be something interesting for you to explore in various regions. Asian street food can’t survive by standing still and serving ‘classics’, it has to change, create and clever.


Nice find. Using rice puffs instead of tofu puffs would be interesting in lots of dishes.


Starting reading and immediately thought of the 'fen' connection. The French backstory is much more romantic but I have a feeling it has origins linked with that ubiquitous Cantonese term.


I did a piece on the debated origins of Pho Cuon which isn't online, so I slapped it up on Twit Longer if anyone is interested: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/kvscgt

Spoiler Alert: Nothing conclusive there either, though some of the theories are entertaining/ intriguing.

And if we can't even ascertain how pho cuon (maybe only 10-12 years old) emerged, we'll NEVER know about pho, though I kinda like that.


I am pretty sure Phở cuốn is Hakka's traditional 'ban juan' 粄卷 (literally rice flour sheet wrap) - the difference seems to be Hanoi's is predominantly about beef whereas Chinese about pork. When it's eaten plain with no fillings - it is called 'juan ban'(literally rolled rice flour sheet)- common in Taiwan too. It maybe Pho does have a 'French soul' - the beef.


Ah – there is of course ’Banh cuon’ which should be the equivalent of Hakka’s ‘Ban juan’, the difference seems to be Banh cuon uses (slightly) fermented rice? Other than that, the filling and the preparation seems pretty similar. This one is Chaozhou’s using minced pork. http://www.ynzb.com/bbs/dv_rss.asp?s=x&boardid=87&id=26821&page=14

Bahn pho (hefun) sheet is thicker and looks identical to ‘Juan Ban’ 捲粄(rolled rice flour sheet) as these Taiwanese school children are making. The sheets are steamed in rectangular trays. They rolled it without filling. All these Hakka food culture in Taiwan is of course ‘modern’ – likely after 2000. http://blog.xuite.net/new.ly/2011306/53517623-2011-11-01+%E7%AB%B9%E4%BB%81%E5%9C%8B%E5%B0%8F%E6%A0%A1%E5%A4%96%E6%95%99%E5%AD%B8(%E9%BA%A5%E5%85%8B%E7%94%B0%E5%9C%92%E4%BC%91%E9%96%92%E8%BE%B2%E5%A0%B4)-%E6%8D%B2%E7%B2%84(7%2F8)

Anyway, both in Chinese culture are Hakka traditional ban food. I bought a pack of air sealed ban sheet from a Hakka village in my last trip home – slightly greased with vegetable oil, not to be fridged as it went hard. I cut it into strips and ate it cold with soy sauce and garlic dip; but the seller did mention eaten it rolled with your own filling like spring rolls.

Be interesting to see a photo of the Southern Chinese vendors selling Pho in the 20th century – if there were female vendors, they could easily be identified as Hakka women (big feet).


Thanks for this great discussion on the origins of pho. The whole controversy of French/Chinese origin is something I've been thinking about a lot of late! I also am not familiar with these other pho dishes -- thanks for introducing them! Are they more northern?


Great post, but I could not buy into this "french" aspect of vietnamese Pho because it sounds silly and pho contain at least 5 to 10 medicinal spices, if you just recognize star anise, you realize that's a daily usage in chinese food, one of the famous five spices. Vietnam have always tried to build thing different from a chinese product. take vietnamese version of Dong Po Rou/ fish sauce+coconut juice vs rice wine+soysauce.
im pretty sure Vietnamese ate beef long before the french came, the fact that their's other animals on the menu too, for the adventurous.


Here in Saigon there's a couple restaurants that serve phở xào. Pho noodles are fried in a wok to make a crispy, chewy cake (looks similar to a funnel cake). It's topped with a mess of beef, tomatoes, and mustard similar to what's on your phở chiên phồng.


Thanks for the articles. But, I suggest you to also write about extreme food in Asia. We have food made from mouses, bats and other extreme food in some places in Indonesia. I think interesting articles to write.
I have a travel blog also : www.paketwisataliburan.com

Karen@Limo CT

Haha the beginning of the post was so funnyI LOVE PHO wraps...wow this is making me miss cooking, may have this for din din. Such clear and beautiful and yummy looking pictures! And I agree @Julie thanks for the great post and introducing more information on this subject. I miss the original cooked food out there. In CT there a couple of restaurants but I have also learned to cook pretty good, so I actually like I said before make this for dinner ;)! Thanks

Kevin Kato

The one thing I found that trumps sitting down to some Pho - or any Vietnamese bit of roadside cuisine - is the way the person who happens to be sitting across from or next to you will see how you are eating your Pho and proceed to add whatever ingredients from array on the table you are missing. Never had that anywhere else in the world. Very unsettling at first, but after a couple times I not only started expecting it but was actually looking forward to it, making sure I sat near one of the locals so they would go through the spiel. And no one has ever done me wrong!

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